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Velon launches anti-trust proceedings against UCI

Velon, the marketing, media and technology company for pro-road cycling, has today (Tuesday) confirmed it has entered an anti-trust complaint to the European Commission against the International Cycling Union (UCI), claiming that the sport’s world governing body is impeding its business practices.

Velon said the complaint was lodged on September 20, adding it had the unanimous support of its shareholders. Velon is owned by 11 WorldTour teams: BORA-hansgrohe; CCC Team; Deceuninck Quick-Step; EF Education First; Lotto Soudal; Mitchelton-SCOTT; Team INEOS; Team Jumbo-Visma; Team Sunweb; Trek-Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates.

Velon said it has asked the EC to investigate the way the UCI has implemented existing regulations and sought to introduce new ones that it claims are designed to favour the governing body’s business interests to the detriment of the teams.

In the past year, Velon said the UCI has tried to impede its team v team Hammer Series, which launched in 2017 and is set to enter its fourth season in 2020, along with its focus on developing and encouraging the use of technology in the sport. In a statement, Velon said: “Velon and its shareholder and partner teams hoped and expected that its initiatives would be supported by the UCI, as had been the case in previous years.

“However, in the past 12 months the UCI has used its regulatory power and political leverage to seek to block the business activities of Velon and the teams in an incorrect and unlawful manner.”

In February, the UCI ruled that Hammer Races may not be referred to as a Series under UCI regulations. Velon said no explanation has ever been given, adding that the UCI has threatened to refuse to register Hammer races in 2020.

Velon said opposition from the UCI has hampered its development amid what it claims is strong interest from potential race organiser partners and host cities to stage Hammer races. In June, the Hammer Series announced that it will take events to three Colombian cities over the next three years.

Velon also hit out at the UCI for this year passing new technical regulations “without due process or consultation” with any of the stakeholders in the sport, adding that it has sought to give itself and race organisers ownership and control over the teams’ business on live race data.

The UCI today (Tuesday) issued a statement to SportBusiness in response, saying: “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has not been notified of the complaint referred to in Velon’s press statement. In the case of such notification, it will take necessary steps according to appropriate procedure.

“In line with its mission, the UCI will continue to work with all its stakeholders, and in their best interests, for the new organisation of men’s professional road cycling.”

The UCI has been engaged in an ongoing reform process for the sport and hit a further potential roadblock last week. The UCI has said it will push forward with the formation of a new ‘Classics Series’, bringing together all of road cycling’s one-day WorldTour races. This is despite opposition from the Association of Men’s Professional Road Cycling Teams (AIGCP), which last week said its riders will not take part in the plans stating they do not address the inherent issues affecting road cycling.

Velon added in its statement today: “The UCI today believes that it should not only be the regulator for the sport but also take new business creation from its stakeholders without their consent. The UCI feels entitled to use its regulatory powers for its own commercial benefit and to take the rights of the teams and riders without consultation or permission.

“Despite continued efforts by Velon to engage with the UCI relating to our concerns on their actions, the UCI has refused any constructive dialogue for over a year. Consequently, Velon and its teams have been left with no alternative but to submit the Complaint to the European Commission with the objective of having an external authority’s assessment as to whether the conduct of the UCI in regard to the above matters (in particular its use of its regulatory power and political leverage) infringes EU competition rules.”

It added: “Our desire is for a stable, predictable and fair regulatory environment for the sport that treats the teams, riders and race organisers in equal manner. Velon, its shareholders and partners, want the development of new ideas, to attract new investment and to create a better business model so that professional road cycling continues to strengthen and develop for the fans and everyone involved in the sport.”